I crossed the road after quite a struggle due to the unruly drivers and the lethargic RSPs. It was lunch time and I had set out under the scorching sun to complete a task at the last minute (pushing work till the end and going about it heads down at the last minute is a thrill). As I was walking past the TGIF I saw a well-dressed or rather overly dressed old man in suit looking at me. I saw him advance towards me. My gut feeling said that he is about to ask for some help. I get this kind of feeling only when I think the other person is not going to settle for minor help like asking for directions and is looking for monetary help. I have this extra sensory perception and I can sense immediately if a person is looking for some obligation. Just like how dogs smell fear. I went on to the defense mode right away and slowed down. The old man introduced himself as some retired professor from Cochin who had visited Bangalore. I thought he had good command over English as he spoke many words which I don’t know. He asked me if I have a minute. I totally don’t know how my simple 4 worded sentence sounded to him like I had all the time in the world to listen to what he was about to say. All I said was “Sorry I’m busy”.
He plunged straight away into the matter. He had lost his purse and he didn’t have any money to go to Cochin. My reflex reaction was a “No” and tried to move on but he stopped me by touching my arms and was trying to convince me that his case was genuine and not any cooked up story. I totally hate it when a stranger touches me while speaking to me. But since he is a stranger and he would have had no idea that I hate it, I decided to forgive him and was keen on moving on. He was stubborn. Now while he continued telling his tale and how he would send me money through money order once he reaches Cochin, my mind was slowly slipping out and started concentrating on a discussion between my brain and heart.
Heart: Poor guy. He looks real. Should help him to buy tickets to Cochin . I pity him.
Brain: Are you bonkers? You are running late. Just dodge and run to do your work
Heart: People should have compassion. Help the needy. This guy is a senior citizen too.
Brain: Senior citizens can manage somehow in train and reach Cochin without ticket. There is absolutely no need to ask for money. He can instead plead the TTE to leave him.
Heart: Now that he is asking for help, you have to help the poor soul.
Brain: That is n..
Me: Stop guys. It is enough. I can’t take so much bombarding from both inside and outside at the same time. I have decided. I am helping the guy by giving him Rs.10 to reach the main bus terminus where he can get the bus or train to Cochin. That’s it.
I explained the old man that all I can help is only this much and moved on. Before moving, the evil part of me threw out a sarcastic remark that I did not want any money order for that amount. Though I felt sorry for the old man, I didn’t want to take any kind of risk as these days it is more common that people get cheated easily. I wiped out the guilt and consoled myself saying that I at least helped him to reach the main bus terminus.
Few days later while was returning to office, I saw the same old man talking to another guy in the same manner – touching his arms – and this guy looked embarrassed too. I wondered if this old man still didn’t get enough money to reach Cochin or if he lost his purse again. Not worrying much, I went away.
Few days later I saw him again speaking to another man in the same fashion. I was irritated. I was so angry that I wished he did not get any money. While I was crossing them I noticed that the tall man to whom our old man was talking to was looking at me. Out of instinct, I nodded my head and indicated him not to help him. But I saw him taking his purse out of his pocket and I sighed and moved away. I pitied him.
I didn’t see that old man again for couple of months and one fine day I saw him talking to some random guy in his trademark style. My anger shot high immediately like a rocket tearing the sky and my nerves started bulging from my wrist, moved higher through my arms and reached my neck just like in the movie Ratchagan (Excuse me non-Tamil Readers). I was hoping that the victim will look at me so that I can try nodding no to him but I saw him looking elsewhere. I turned in the direction he was looking at and saw the tall man, who helped the old man earlier, nodding his head and signaling a No. We both saw this new man taking out his purse. We sighed. We pitied him and moved on. It all happens.